Peter Chiarelli (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Peter Chiarelli will not be out of work long. As GM of the Bruins, he guided the franchise to two appearances in the Stanley Cup final, winning one, and the Presidents' Trophy last season, but one year out of the playoffs sealed his doom in Boston.
You’d have to think Peter Chiarelli’s fate in Boston was sealed back in January when team CEO Charlie Jacobs said it would be “a complete failure” and “absolutely unacceptable” for the Bruins to miss the playoffs this season.
Tough crowd there in Boston. One bad season and you find yourself out on your ear. And when the Bruins power brokers asked themselves what Chiarelli had done for them lately, they didn’t like the answers. When you frame it that way, there was an avalanche of reasons for the Bruins to fire Chiarelli this morning. On-ice performance aside, it has been kind of a skeleton-in-the-closets kind of run of moves for Chiarelli of late.
But to base Chiarelli’s employment status on his mistakes without measuring them against all the good things he’s done for the Bruins since taking over as GM in Boston nine years ago is a little unfair. But hey, nobody said this was fair. It’s a results-driven business in a league that is rife with parity at the moment. And when you have the financial resources the Bruins have to make a change, even when it means firing a GM who still has three years left on his contract, it’s much easier to make the case that Chiarelli had to go.
But here’s the thing that your trusty correspondent is having a bit of trouble figuring out. Since 2010, the Bruins have won a Stanley Cup, competed in the final for another and were the best regular season team in the league in 2013-14. If Chiarelli’s mandate was to build a winning team that was a consistent contender for a championship – this season notwithstanding – he did that.
Chiarelli is an interesting guy. He’s a little socially awkward, doesn’t engage in small talk and is not really comfortable on the big stage, yet without bluster and blarney, was one of the busiest horse traders in the business. The one thing you cannot say about Chiarelli is that he was indecisive. He never met a blockbuster trade he didn’t like.
And that, more than anything, is what got him into trouble. His many good moves were followed up by equally bad ones, sometimes with the same player.
And Tyler Seguin is a prime example of that unfortunate juxtaposition. Unable to sign his top scorer in 2009, Chiarelli traded Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for picks that yielded the Bruins Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Great, tenure-defining deal. But then Chiarelli botched it four years later when he dealt the immature Seguin to Dallas and got not enough in return, while Seguin flourished in Dallas into the type of go-to offensive player the Bruins were so desperately missing this season.
Chris Kelly for a second-round pick? Terrific. Signing a 31-year-old Kelly to a four-year contract extension at $3 million per season? Not so much. Getting Johnny Boychuk for Matt Hendricks in 2008, genius. Trading him to the New York Islanders for a couple of draft picks, then watching your team’s defense corps ravaged by injury and a lack of depth, both reprehensible and unfortunate.
This was a guy who signed Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara and traded for Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Mark Recchi and Tuukka Rask. Every one of those was a ridiculously lopsided trade in favor of the Bruins.
But the Bruins had become an old, slow team that seemed to have trouble keeping up with their opponents who could move their feet and the puck quickly. The Bruins were dreadful against the Montreal Canadiens this season, losing all four games. Had the Bruins even split their series against the Canadiens, the would have found themselves in the playoffs.
But there are teams in the NHL that would love to have a GM with Chiarelli’s record of success. And somebody is going to get him. Chiarelli will not be out of work long and people around the league will likely realize his dismissal was as much due to the fact that he was never Jacobs’ and team president Cam Neely’s guy as it was due to job performance.
The Bruins march on and will allow their new GM to decide the fate of Claude Julien and his coaching staff. Chiarelli, meanwhile, immediately goes to the top of the list for any team looking for a new GM itself. Imagine if Julien ultimately gets fired and Chiarelli gets the GM job in Toronto and hires Julien to coach. That will put Chiarelli, Julien and Kessel all back together again and wouldn’t that make for an interesting dynamic?